There has been a fiery debate over the past few weeks about illegal aliens and crime, which has intensified with the murder of Kate Steinle in San Francisco by a seven-time felon and five-time deportee as the direct result of the city’s sanctuary policy.
What seems to have been overlooked in the back and forth on this is some of the very disturbing, actual data on crimes committed by illegal aliens, which should concern every American—particularly those who live in sanctuary cities like New Orleans or San Francisco that release criminal aliens rather than turning them over to the Department of Homeland Security.
As Jessica Vaughan of the Center for Immigration Study outlines, Department of Homeland Security records show that in just one eight-month period in 2014, more than 8,100 deportable aliens were released by sanctuary jurisdictions. Three thousand of them were felons and 62 percent had a prior criminal record. Nineteen hundred were later rearrested a total of 4,300 times on 7,500 different offenses.
Thus, these sanctuary policies directly victimized thousands of the residents of these sanctuary cities who were subjected to assaults, burglaries, sexual assaults, thefts and even murders that would not have occurred except for these sanctuary policies.
But there is more. In 2005, at the request of several members of Congress, the Government Accountability Office prepared two reports on criminal aliens—legal and illegal—in prison for committing crimes in the United States. Those reports are very revealing. For example, the first report (GAO-05-337R) released on April 7, 2005, found that:
- The percentage of federal prisoners who are criminal aliens is about 27 percent;
- In 2004, there were 49,000 such prisoners in federal jails;
- In 2002, the federal government gave reimbursements to the 50 states under the “State Criminal Alien Assistance Program” (SCAAP) for incarcerating another 77,000 illegal aliens in state prisons; and
- At the local level in 2002, the federal government reimbursed 750 local governments under SCAAP for incarcerating an additional 138,000 criminal illegal aliens, which jumped to 147,000 prisoners in 2003.
It is important to note that these reported numbers “represent only a portion of the total population of criminal aliens who may be incarcerated at the local level,” since the federal government does “not reimburse localities for all criminal aliens” and some states don’t submit requests for reimbursement. So where were all of these criminal aliens from? According to the GAO report, the breakdown was as follows:
Federal prisons: Mexico (63 percent); Colombia (7 percent); the Dominican Republic (7 percent); Jamaica (4 percent); Cuba (3 percent); El Salvador (2 percent); Honduras, Haiti and Guatemala (each 1 percent), and the remaining 11 percent from 164 other countries.
State prisons: In the five states (Arizona, California, Florida, New York and Texas) incarcerating about 80 percent of SCAAP criminal aliens, the prisoners were from Mexico (58 percent); Cuba (5 percent); Dominican Republic (5 percent); El Salvador (4 percent); Jamaica (3 percent); Vietnam (2 percent); and the remaining 22 percent from 148 other countries.
Local jails: In the five local jails with the largest criminal illegal alien populations, the prisoners were from Mexico (65 percent); El Salvador (6 percent); Guatemala (3 percent); Honduras (2 percent); South Korea, Vietnam, the Dominican Republic and the Philippines (each 1 percent); and the remaining 20 percent from 193 other countries.
Thus, it is clear that criminal aliens already represent more than a quarter of all of the prisoners in federal prisons and are present in large numbers in state and local jails.
The second GAO report (GAO-05-646R), released on May 9, 2005, looked at the crimes committed by 55,322 aliens who “had entered the country illegally and were still illegally in the country at the time of their incarceration in federal or state prison or local jail during fiscal year 2003.”
The path of destruction weaved by these 55,322 illegal aliens was truly shocking. According to GAO, these criminal aliens:
- Were arrested a total of 459,614 times, averaging about eight arrests per illegal alien;
- 97 percent had more than one arrest, while 26 percent had over 11 arrests;
- Committed almost 700,000 criminal offenses, averaging 13 offenses per illegal alien;
- 10 percent of these illegal aliens were arrested for committing 26 or more offenses;
- Out of all of the arrests, 12 percent were for violent crimes such as murder, robbery, assault and sex-related crimes; 15 percent were for burglary, larceny, theft and property damage; 24 percent were for drug offenses; and the remaining offenses were for DUI, fraud, forgery, counterfeiting, weapons, immigration and obstruction of justice; and
- 80 percent of the arrests occurred in just three states: California, Texas, and Arizona
Of course, these statistics reflect the criminal histories of aliens who were in prison. Unfortunately, in fiscal year 2013, the Obama administration released over 36,000 convicted criminal aliens awaiting the outcome of deportation hearings upon an unsuspecting public, and another 30,558 in fiscal year 2014 according to the House Judiciary Committee.
The offenses for which they were convicted involved “dangerous drugs, assault and domestic violence, stolen vehicles, robbery, sex offenses, sexual assault, kidnaping, voluntary manslaughter, and even homicide.” As the House Judiciary Committee outlined, more than a quarter of these aliens “were so called ‘level 1s’ according to the administration—the worst of the worst.” And in 2013 alone, the administration didn’t even bring removal proceedings against an additional 68,000 criminal aliens convicted of everything from homicide to sexual assault.
If the over 134,000 aliens released by the administration in just the past two years follow the pattern of those aliens studied by the GAO in 2005, they will commit hundreds of thousands of more crimes, victimizing countless innocent Americans in crimes that could have been prevented.
How many Americans have to be assaulted, injured, raped or killed, or have their homes, cars and personal property burglarized, stolen or damaged before both the federal government and local governments like San Francisco will finally do what is necessary to lock up criminal aliens who are a danger to the safety and lives of the public?
Hans von Spakovsky is an authority on a wide range of issues—including civil rights, civil justice, the First Amendment, immigration, the rule of law and government reform—as a senior legal fellow in The Heritage Foundation’s Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies and manager of the think tank’s Election Law Reform Initiative.
Editor's Note: This piece was originally published by The Heritage Foundation.